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Using allegations to understand selection bias in organizations: misconduct in the Chicago Police Department


Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes


Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Authors / Editors

Stroube B


Publication Year



Selection biases present a fundamental challenge for research on ethics and misconduct. This issue is well understood at the individual level, where lab studies are often employed to sidestep it at the potential expense of external validity. However, much archival field data on ethics and misconduct are at risk of selection bias originating from within organizations, because organizations are typically responsible for evaluating and ultimately documenting who commits misconduct. In this paper I explore the nature and potential scope of this particular form of selection bias, its potential impact on the interpretation of extant findings from the literature, and how studying allegations may help detect it in specific contexts. Using detailed data on formal allegations of police misconduct in Chicago, I highlight how status characteristics such as race and gender may bias the creation of archival data. For example, black officers received allegations at similar rates to white officers, but were more likely to have them sustained, and allegations made by black complainants were less likely to be sustained than those made by white complainants—even when including extensive sets of control variables. These findings indicate that accounting for allegations may be a fruitful methodological avenue to better understand the optimal use of archival behavioral field data for research on ethics and misconduct.

Available on ECCH


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